Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Present Future—New Reality #4—The Return to Spiritual Formation.

Christians (evangelicals especially) emphasize that our connectivity to God is through a relationship with Jesus. We talk about giving him our hearts or inviting him into our hearts. We use love language to talk about committing our lives to him. Then, as soon as the deal is done, we switch the language and go to head stuff. We pull out the notebooks. We go over what we believe, information about the church, and so on.

I have learned a few things about Cathy in our two-plus decades of marriage. I have discovered what she likes and doesn’t like. I have learned about her family. I don’t know about her. I know her!

-McNeal, “The Present Future,” page. 70.

A person who claims to be a follower of Jesus claims to have a relationship with him. This means they know him, not just about him (this was Paul’s claim in Philippians 3:10). Yet we have turned our churches into groups of people who are studying God as though they were taking a course at school or attending a business seminar. We aim at the head. We don’t deal in relationship. And we wonder why there is no passion for Jesus and his mission? [bold in original]

-McNeal, page 70.

Instead of dumping a packet of church club membership stuff on them, why not interview them about what they would like to see happen in their lives in terms of their spiritual development and personal growth? [bold in original]

-McNeal, page 76.

I stand (actually I am seated) convicted.

Evergreen Presbyterian Church’s next “new member” class is in a few weeks. It is really a very good seminar. We make no assumptions about a person’s spiritual development or knowledge. We are in the “unchurched” northwest. People have taken “ideas” from various religious paths that seem to appeal to them and try to synthesize them into a worldview, a belief system. Our seminar seeks to introduce people to Jesus, faith, and yes, the Presbyterian Church. We stress that faith is a journey and that we are making commitments to them and that we expect certain things from them (we DO NOT give them a pledge card) -- we expect spiritual growth.

A lot of what we seek to do is to help the newcomer build a lasting relationship with Jesus. At least that is the theory. The problem is that much of this happens in the follow-up seminar and too many people don’t take that seminar. After all, they have received their membership certificate. They are now a part of the club. They have arrived. They are “in.”

McNeal strongly advocates life coaching for spiritual growth. This approach to spiritual growth is tailored to the individual. Coaching requires commitment, close contact between the coach and the individual and accountability.

I join the local YMCA in January 2007. LOTS of people join the Y as a part of their New Year’s resolutions. 2007 was a typical year for that type of thing. I heard many regulars lament the crowded weight rooms. They knew that in just a few months the new crowds would disappear. In an effort to assist these hordes of new comers our Y has an offer that is too good to pass up. I met with Dana, a trainer. Dana helped me design a work out to meet my goals. She helped me find my range of motion for each machine. I worked out in a special room where all of the machines are linked to a computerize system. Dana knew what I was doing and when. Dana would check in on my progress every couple of weeks. I was sick for a couple of weeks and unable to work out. I received an e-mail from Dana to see why I wasn’t working out. Some time later, I pulled a muscle in my leg—it severely limited what I could do at the Y. Again, Dana contacted me. She held me accountable to my health and exercise goals.

What would happen if every newcomer to a congregation was expected to meet with a coach? The coach and newcomer would design an individualized spiritual development plan. There would be accountability. I suspect that spiritual growth would occur. We would also be communicating that we are interested in the newcomer as an individual.

Implementing this type of approach would be challenging. People who are vested in a church culture could be hesitant to accept such a change. Accountability?!? Can’t I just come and sit in the pew (or chair, in Evergreen’s case)?

It is easy for me to say that I stand convicted. The difficult thing is doing something about it. I am going to be praying about how I can adapt the coaching element into our next new member class. A small start. A step in the right direction?

2 Comments:

At 12:31 PM , Blogger Presbyterian Gal said...

A coach is a very cool idea, Pastor Lance! I look forward to reading how that works out.

When our son starts his new school in September we will be assigned a mentor family. Which I greatly look forward to. It will help "fold" us into the community.

That would have been nice to have at church as well.

 
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